You’ve been practicing all week for this performance. The time comes for you to walk up on the stage, and you start to get nervous. You begin your piece, and the nerves don’t go away. You know that you’re making mistakes and you know that the audience can hear them, and it just makes the whole situation worse. By the time you finish and your studio mates applaud you, you’re feeling pretty down.
As a graduate student, I have had my fair share of these types of studio experiences, and, of course, it’s not fun. Sometimes there’s nothing you can really do but just push through the nerves and finish your performance. That is what your studio class is there for; to practice your performance skills. I know that studio class can be pretty daunting, but I encourage you to think about these things when you have to perform in your studio classes in the future:
1. Your professor and your studio mates are all there to help you... which sounds obvious, but it’s so easy to forget. Everyone in your studio class knows what it’s like to have to perform in front of you and your peers. Everyone gets nervous, even if they don’t look like it on the stage. Even your professors get nervous from time to time. It’s something that we all have to deal with and work on, so don’t be so hard on yourself if your nerves get to you.
2. You don’t have to give perfect performances in studio class. A lot of students are using studio class as a way to prepare for their performances, whether it’s a studio recital, a solo recital, an audition, etc. So, while everyone should prepare their piece well, it doesn’t have to be perfect. If it was perfect, then you wouldn’t need to play it in studio class. Everyone has the capacity to improve, even the students in your studio class that you think play well every single time.
3. Not only do your studio mates and your professor want to help you in studio class, they see a lot of good qualities in your performances. If you’ve just performed and you don’t think that you did very well, you’re going to be hung up on all of your mistakes that you just made. But, you don’t really know what your studio mates are thinking. Oftentimes in my studio class, my studio mates always give some sort of a compliment when they’re giving comments and it’s so nice to hear that because you might not have noticed something that went well in your performance.
As nerve-wracking as it can be, studio class is a helpful class, and your studio mates and your professor want to see you succeed.
During my undergraduate years, I was often too stressed or dealing with mental health issues to take full advantage of the events going on around me. I tried joining clubs, but they weren’t that welcoming. I always felt like an outsider. It wasn’t until my senior year that I started going to concerts that I wanted to go to. I went to faculty recitals, I saw Gil Shaham perform the works of Bach, and I got to hear Kelly Hall-Tompkins perform Wynton Marsalis’ Violin Concerto which was really special for me. I even saw some of my peers' recitals and that was really fun, too.
This semester, it’s almost difficult to pick and choose what to attend because there’s so much going on every week! I really appreciate the weekly music events email that goes out because I am quite forgetful. So far I’ve gone to the David Rosenboom Residency concert in October, an electric strings DMA recital, one Illini Strings concert, two electric strings masterclasses, the electric strings studio recital and an artist diploma student recital. I also got to see the Chicago Symphony perform in Krannert Center for Performing Arts which was incredible!
I’m constantly amazed at how many opportunities there are not only to see others perform but to participate in things as a musician. For example, I’m currently in Dr. Koo’s studio and I’m working on a composer collaboration where we get to learn a piece written by a composer and record it. This is just a great learning experience because I’ve never done anything like this before. I wish my previous school had stuff like this to do with their students!
And, in February, I’m performing in a faculty-student side by side performance of ALL of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. That is literally a dream of mine to play the Brandenburg Concertos at such a high level! All in all, I’m learning so much from attending these performances, seeing performers of all levels play vastly different kinds of music. It’s so inspiring for me and I can’t wait to see what next semester has to offer!
It can be difficult to find motivation to practice, especially when the only available practice space is a ten minute walk through whatever horrible weather may be plaguing the outdoors, to then make your way up a few floors of the music building to the practice rooms.
In my opinion, there aren’t many more joyful things in life than making music with another person. I recently have had the pleasure of playing with Kevina Lam, pianist for the School of Music. Kevina’s talent is a gift to the flute studio. She accompanies our class week after week, while maintaining a full schedule with several other studios, recitals, concerts, and being a mom.